Social Media

Lessons Learned from the Trenches of Social Media.

My colleague, Julia, had already plunged into social media with her successful SnarkyVegan blog. I, on the other hand, was a rookie and a skeptic at that. But as we strategized about ways to establish thought leadership for the agency, we decided that enewsletters, which would roll into blogs, would be a good starting point. The result was MondoBeat: Ideas to Improve Your Marketing Rhythm.

To say the least, one thing led to another. Strong reception to the enewsletter/blog began to pique our interest. Soon we were announcing new posts at our Twitter sites, and I began to wonder if there was any potential in our mostly dormant LinkedIn accounts.

So Julia and I got busy completing our profiles, linking feeds from our blog, posting slide presentations, connecting with colleagues and participating in groups. Along the way, I was invited to manage my college’s alumni group as well as another group. So I got to see “groups” from both the participant and manger perspectives.

What We Learned

Clearly social media is evolving and participants are evolving along with it. Here are three key findings from our experience:

1. Synergy Counts.

The more options we integrated into our social media goal of growing our thought leadership perception, the better we did. More people started to follow us on Twitter, and we connected with more and more people on LinkedIn. Both are significant drivers of readers to the blog, and LinkedIn is now our number one source of hits and page views.

Of course everyone always wants to know if you were able to monetize social media. That was not our goal—thought leadership was—but we did receive several inquiries about our services and made presentations as a result of our social media experiences.

Additionally:

  • Our customers are virtually all loyal readers of our enewsletters/blogs.
  • We found a capable subcontractor through a renewed contact made on LinkedIn and used the individual on a project.
  • The enewsletter/blog grew to the point that we are now considering offering sole sponsorship opportunities for each issue (you’ll eventually be able to judge that success for yourself).
  • We are now more knowledgeable, empathetic social media advisors to our clients—you know the old adage about the best doctor being the one who just got out of the hospital.

2. Participation Counts.

If you want to benefit from social media, you have to be willing to participate on a consistent, frequent basis. You also need to be willing to learn the rules of social media so that your participation helps, not hurts your business. And you need to set your internal social media goals and appoint someone to coordinate your social media team.

In addition to getting some professional advice, we recommend taking one of the many good social media classes available. Some even offer social media certifications. The more skillfully you employ social media, the better the results.

3. Participation Takes Time.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that social media is free. It will definitely cost you time, a valuable commodity in today’s downsized companies. We easily spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half per day on social media, and that excludes writing our enewsletter/blog posts. You may be able to—and probably should—share some of the responsibilities, but don’t start if you’re not willing to commit the time. As a point of reference, many large companies now have one or more people on staff who do nothing but monitor social media.

Finally, remember that social media is primarily for relationship and thought leadership building. It should be part of your marketing plan, but continue to leave the heavy lifting to postal mail, email, print advertising and marketing media better suited to directly generating sales and ROI.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you with social media strategy through program deployment. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media.

Social media participation requires your time, but it needs to be quality time. Otherwise, you can cause more harm than good. Use these tips to create relationships and thought leadership that will help build your business.

Do

  • Set a social media strategy—outline what you want to accomplish and how it is going to happen.
  • Get some formal training—you need to know everything from the tools available to social media etiquette.
  • Appoint someone to direct and monitor your efforts.
  • Learn how your respected competitors are tapping social media—research them in the major search engines.
  • Create blogs, enewsletters and other articles on your sites to bolster the number of keywords and increase your search rankings.
  • Keep taking your social media to higher levels—provide richer content, etc.
  • Remember that social media is about earning attention.
  • Help, teach, guide and be tolerant with people new to social media—keep learning yourself.
  • Get in sync with your audience.
  • Be transparent, genuine and real about you and your company.
  • Spend at least as much time listening as you do broadcasting.
  • Find creative ways to use social media with print—maybe you’re a restaurant chain that could Tweet daily lunch or dinner specials on Twitter.

Don’t

  • View social media as simply a place to hype your wares—unlearn some of your traditional marketing habits.
  • Underestimate the power of video in social media.
  • Be naïve about the time commitment to do social media right.
  • Forget that cheaters never win—trying to game the system will eventually get you busted.
  • Neglect to measure—it’s the only way to know if you’re achieving your goals.
  • Get upset about losing followers unless they’re the people you really want to target—then figure out why you’re losing them and adjust.
  • Be thin skinned or take everything that happens in your social media experience personally.
  • Think you will ever know everything about social media—it turns on a dime.
  • Participate on an inconsistent basis—frequency definitely matters in building a following.
  • Fail to add value—people won’t spend their time if they don’t receive something worthwhile in return.
  • Disrespect the community—treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Forget to enjoy your social media experience.

MondoVox® Creative Group Client Wins Marketing Award. MondoVox® Creative Group recently created an award-winning campaign for Ripon Printers (Ripon, WI), a leading printer of catalogs, publications, manuals and soft-cover educational products. The company received the prestigious National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) Marketing Plus™ Award. This competition acknowledges and recognizes those printing companies that have created and produced successful marketing campaigns and collateral for the self-promotion of their companies.

Ripon Printers was the sole recipient of the Gold Award in the Vertical Markets category. Entries consisted of campaigns to promote company core competencies and services specifically relevant to identified vertical markets and positioning the company as an effective market leader in these market segments.

To read the complete release, including examples of the multichannel campaign components, please visit MondoVox News.

By Larry Bauer

Hashtags as Leadership Tools in Twitter.

We all know that starting and maintaining relevant conversations with customers and prospects are key to using thought leadership to enable sales, support and brand building. Before electronic social media tools, corporate socializing occurred on the golf course, while sharing beers at the local watering hole after work—even rented suites at the Indy500 and other events enabled you to prove your mettle with VIP clients and prospects.

Many of the ways we used to participate in social business conversations also translate well to social media tools. Discovering existing conversations about your brand or product niche is as easy as eavesdropping by searching for keywords in Twitter or using Google Blog Search. Creating and leading such conversations requires a concerted effort by you and your company.

Leading the Conversation.

Tags are a type of metadata used to identify specific topics online by assigning keywords to a specific piece of information, making that information easy to find. Hashtags are a specific type of tagging used in social media that you employ to create topically oriented conversations and to follow others’ conversations on Twitter or identi.ca.

It’s a way of grouping relevant messages into conversations, similar to the idea of but much broader than corralling VIPs in an event room or networking on the golf course. Imagine no conventional boundaries, and the fact that you’re potentially conversing with 500 or even 5,000 people in a given day, week, month.

By using hashtags (and tags in general), you can establish yourself as the thought leader for a given topic by starting the conversation, interacting intelligently with others and continuing to provide information/advice/support.

If you’re going to use hashtags for leading and managing conversations about your brand, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Write a great hashtag. Hashtags like #news are not helpful. Be more effective by using tags like #BrandNameNews, #BrandLaunch or #BrandHelp and be considerate of length. Remember that it does get counted in Twitter users’ 140-character limit. AND be cautious with acronyms as there could be multiple unrelated conversations potentially using the same acronym.
  • Use = promotion. Use the hashtag religiously and appropriately whenever speaking online about the specific topic. AND use it interactively when conversing with others in social media tools.
  • Don’t spam. Don’t pick up unrelated hashtags and appropriate them as your own. Inserting hashtags about a recent earthquake is NOT ok if your tweet has nothing to do with the earthquake. This is a proven method of upsetting Twitter users and they will make their displeasure known.
  • Promote it in other analog and digital marketing tools. Land Rover developed a very successful hashtag campaign in April 2009 by using a myriad of print and online promotions to promote the hashtag on Twitter. There is a lot to learn from Land Rover’s experience, and I would encourage you to not simply copy their strategy but to view it only as a starting point.
  • Develop communication guidelines for social media in general and apply them here. Include such things as a communications tone and consider any concerns that legal may have. Make sure anyone you’ve tasked with participating in social media on behalf of your brand is trained and knowledgeable.

Dealing with Loss of Control.

When putting your own hashtag out for use in the twitterverse, you must be prepared for negative use of the tag. Remember, just because the tag originated with you doesn’t mean you own it. It’s part of the larger conversation that you can participate in but never control. The effect is akin to having conversations with people at a party where some know and love you, some know and hate you and many don’t know you at all.

This is why it’s critical to understand and ensure your brand’s integrity and value. Likewise, it’s important to have the ability to lead the conversation as a valued participant. If your brand is suffering from poor quality products/service/support, no amount of twittering or tagging will save you. But you can use social media tools as part of your plan to turn your brand around so long as you truly are taking steps to improve the problems.

If you have quality, support or deliverability issues that you’re taking steps to resolve, plan on mitigating negative use of the hashtag by:

  • Fixing your problems. Start resolving the problems that affect your brand’s quality before taking on social media. You don’t have to finish resolving your issues, but you should be well on the path to recovery before initiating that first social media conversation. You may even want to use your resolve to repair the damage as your first hashtag topic.
  • Increasing your response time and quality. Comcast is THE benchmark for response times and problem resolution via Twitter. Forget their phone support, you’ll never get through. But use Twitter and they’ve got a tech on top of the problem within five or 10 minutes.
  • Creating a human voice. Again, Comcast wins hands down. They’ve got real live technical humans monitoring Twitter conversations about their product and service. These folks are also trained to interact with customers AND solve the problem.
  • Maintaining transparency. If there’s a problem, own up to it publicly. Take a lesson from Toyota’s recent PR fiasco and own up early, take steps to resolve the problem and communicate those steps without corporate speak. You must sound authentically human. Don’t skimp on this part or you’ll get nailed to the Twitter wall quickly.

And by all means, pay attention when online. Use the opportunity to converse with large numbers of customers to both help and guide them as well as learn if there are problems or areas for improvement. If your brand is loved and respected universally, you won’t have much of a problem. However, there are always instigators in any venue. You should be prepared to encounter them with knowledge, grace and honesty.

By Julia Moran Martz

Beware of anyone calling themselves an expert?

TWO CENTS FOR TODAY:

I just finished reading a hilarious post at SocialMediaBlogster and it got me thinking, what the devil is an expert?

I think we have to be careful applying the term expert. We must remember that there is always going to be more knowledge to gain, ways to grow, change to embrace.

So, can any one ever really be an expert?

Aren’t we risking inflated egos and stagnation when we refer to ourselves as experts?

Should you trust someone who calls themselves an expert?

I don’t know about you but I want to continue learning and that means being a student of change. So please don’t call me an expert. Just call me an explorer.

—Julia

Integrating Social Media.

Social media reminds us of soccer in America about 25-years ago. Youth leagues across the county were playing the game. It was inexpensive, fun, good exercise and even the youngest players could handle the fundamental skills of running and kicking a ball. Soccer was a grassroots, community-based movement that flew under the radar for a time while attracting millions of participants.

Social Media is a grassroots movement with many of the same characteristics. Its draw is the ability to share personal human stories on a grand scale. Participants relate their own experiences to others of like interests. These conversations can and do encompass product/service experiences and recommendations allowing for powerful viral marketing and sales referrals.

For instance, while YouTube is a seemingly infinite source of goofy ephemera, users also find a plethora of product demonstrations posted by actual product users. These how-to videos often use name brand products. Podcasts also provide opinions, interviews and commentary on many topics including products, services, technologies and trends. Social media tools offer a way to participate in dialog outside your own back yard. Let’s start by looking specifically at one tool that’s been around the longest: blogs. We’ll discuss other important tools, like social networks, in subsequent issues of MondoBeat.

Blogs in General.

Blog is short for weblog, or websites that use a dated log format with the most recent entry listed at the top. Most provide alternative views on a variety of subjects, and the top bloggers challenge traditional offline media counterparts for both readership and advertising.

As recently as 1999 only 23 blogs existed. Today’s worldwide blogosphere is more than 75 million, though some authorities believe the number of active blogs is more in the 2-4 million range. Forester Research says that approximately 25% of adult Americans read a blog every month. If you consider that these are early adopters who provide referrals and commentary for the next wave called the early majority, then blog participants represent a key target demographic.

The proliferation of free weblog-creation software helped blogs gain their immense popularity. Originally link driven, the new blog software made longer text entries possible. While many blogs remain primarily textual, there are also blogs devoted to:

  • Videos (vlog)
  • Photos (photolog)
  • Portfolios of sketches (sketchlog)
  • Links (linklog)
  • Brief posts and mixed media (tumblelog)

Corporate Blogs.

These can be used internally to enhance the communications and culture within an organization or externally to help achieve branding, marketing or public relations
objectives. Many organizations keep a blog on their website. These blogs usually contain content appealing to the demographic that the organization seeks.

The content may primarily relate to the activities of the organization, or it may have very little to do with the organization itself. Frequently, a blog will focus on the kinds of content likely to attract the desired web surfers, even if that content is not related to the product or service that the company provides.

More often, though, the content is at least a mix of subjects with business-related posts carrying the heavy load. For example, Mike Critelli, executive chairman of mailing solutions provider Pitney Bowes, covers a wide range of topics in his “Open Mike” blog.

Most topics do relate to his business with commentary on subjects like “Environmental Impact of Mail,” but a few are more personal in nature and reveal a bit of the chairman to his audience. In Critelli’s words, “In spite of my obvious passion for the mailstream and the industry I have been a part of, I will comment on a broad range of subjects, including some of those I have called out in my biography.” How you structure your blog, as well as who does the writing, really depends on your objective.

How you structure your blog, as well as who does the writing, really depends on your objective. For instance:

  • A manufacturer of women’s upscale fashion might create a blog that addresses subjects ranging from the latest trends to how to better serve high-end shoppers at the retail level. The blog might include a video link to a fashion show, an interview with a leading designer and discussions about the economic outlook in fashion retailing. In a down market, a blog like this could be sensitive to consumers needs by offering timely ideas for stretching their clothing budget with a few good pieces or dressing for job interviews.
  • A charity organization’s blog might include a commentary on recent success stories, an inspirational video interview with someone helped by the organization and discussions about upcoming fundraisers.

Blog-site Advertising.

If you don’t want to start your own blog but would like to reach the targeted audiences of other blogs, you can use MondoVox to handle ad placement. We try to match marketers with independent blog owners and their highly valued audiences. But keep in mind that a desire to advertise doesn’t automatically mean you will be accepted. Many of the best niche-community blogs are not owned by corporations and are more likely to pick and choose whom they will associate with their blog.

Relevance is critical, and blog owners often engage with marketers to share thoughts about what might work best for their readers and communities. That’s because authors generally require approval of every campaign in advance, which also helps deliver a valuable endorsement about your product or service from the blog’s leadership.

How to Get Started.

A good way to begin is by subscribing to other blogs in your market category. Technorati and Google Blog Search are among the leaders in blog search. Technorati can list search results either by authority or by date. Authority is important to consider in evaluating a blog, because the higher the authority—translate “popularity”—the more impact the posts and comments will have. Once you identify the blogs you want to track, “really simple syndication” (RSS) makes subscribing easy.

What if Your Social Media Skills Aren’t so Terrific?

MondoVox can help you develop and implement a social media strategy. We can identify high potential opportunities, set up blogs, create videos, craft offers, develop landing pages and provide metrics. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

— by Larry Bauer

Social Media Pros & Cons.

Social media is a vast experiential toolbox containing communication, collaboration and multimedia tools for sharing user-generated content. Here are some of the pluses and minuses of social media tools in general.

Pros

  • Opportunity to show your human side—that you’re more than a business.
  • Demonstrates a willingness to be open with customers.
  • Potentially fertile new marketing ground with still limited competition.
  • Participants tend to be early adopters—more likely to interact with vendors and offer feedback to improve your products and services.
  • Presence builds loyalty among early adopters—often rewarded with referrals and leads—high potential of viral marketing.
  • Ultimate relationship-building opportunity.
  • Can help your executive team gain a better customer perspective—particularly those normally without direct customer contact.
  • Can help you monitor complaints that don’t make it to or through the service desk.
  • Good vehicles for increasing brand awareness and driving website traffic.
  • Presents opportunities to learn about problems early and correct them.
  • Can improve your reputation as an authority—opportunity to promote and spread ideas.
  • Effective for building relationships with targeted audiences.
  • Versatile—can be used to build both internal and external communities.
  • Search engines love social media such as blogs, because the engines have a passion for frequently updated text and links.
  • Offers a variety of tools that can be used to provide interactive training for your products and services.
  • No specialized technical skills required.
  • Relatively low capital costsi.e., you can set up a blog virtually for free.

Cons

  • Can be time intensive—demands frequent content updates and at least daily monitoring of comments.
  • ROI is not immediate and direct—you’re building relationships, so get used to measuring traffic, page views, links and comments as well as intangibles like community “buzz” and conversations.
  • Relevance is everything—better have something interesting to say.
  • Risk of your organization sounding like it has multiple tones and positions.
  • Risk of non-communications people doing the communicating.
  • Discomfort of not completely controlling the brand message.
  • Plenty of excellent content still gets overlooked.
  • Potential for developing the “wrong crowd” of friends.
  • Can work against you as well as for you.
  • Still difficult to reach mass audiences—these are more 1to1 technologies.
  • Lots of unknowns.

And the Winner Is…

YOU. Technology tools are expanding each day, and that’s good news for your company. There’s no reason to hop on all of the social media bandwagons, but it’s worth your time to consider the benefits of each alternative in helping you achieve your organization’s marketing goals. Likewise, it’s important to understand how your customers are using social media.

One thing we know for sure is that the marketing landscape is changing rapidly. Smart printing companies don’t get caught on their heels while the market sprints ahead. Sometimes you never really catch up. So our recommendation is to get off the blocks when it comes to social media. Remember, websites were once an unproven tool.

Social Media Tip: If you worry about how much time incorporating social media tools might take from other activities, investigate software tools such as Firefox extension RescueTime, which tracks the time you spend at different sites. Use the data to determine how much time you will spend at each community based on interest and benefits received.

— by Larry Bauer